Territoriality matters, but can't be a limit.
Most parishes are defined by territory. With few exceptions, a parish is, properly speaking, the communion of the baptized within the limits of a certain territory, which is defined by the bishop. In the West, that concept has mostly been forgotten, Catholics tend to go to Mass at the parish where they feel most welcomed or fed, and despite encouragement from some bishops, many Sunday Massgoers don't know about parish boundaries.
The Congregation for Clergy's guidelines recognize that reality."Increased mobility and the digital culture have expanded the confines of existence," the guidelines state, "people are less associated today with a definite and immutable geographical context, and "digital culture has inevitably altered the concept of space, together with people's language and behaviour, especially in younger generations."
But the document insists that territoriality matters. That "interpersonal relationships risk being dissolved into a virtual world without any commitment or responsibility towards one's neighbor."
The parish is not a self-selected or self-defined community, but a set of people with obligations to each other, and the guidelines warn against losing that sense.
Because the parish is intended to encourage in neighbors a sense of Christian responsibility for one another, the document is clear that parishes building plans for evangelization and missionary work must take into account "those who actually live within the territory. Every plan must be situated within the lived experience of a community and implanted in it without causing harm, with a necessary phase of prior consultation, and of progressive implementation and verification."
Still, the guidelines say, a parish's mission doesn't end at its territorial boundaries. In light of a changing world, "any pastoral action that is limited to the territory of the Parish is outdated."
In short, the guidelines urge Catholics to think of their parishes as a community, with obligations of neighbors to one another, who share a mission to proclaim the Gospel, together, beyond the limits of their own community.
Structures are for mission, but bureaucracy kills.
The guidelines emphasize that while the parish needs policies, programs, and structures to fulfill its mission, it must "avoid the risk of falling into an excessive and bureaucratic organisation of events and an offering of services that do not express the dynamic of evangelization."
To overcome a tendency towards bureaucratization and formalization of the Church's sacramental and catechetical life "conversion of structures, which the Church must undertake, requires a significant change in mentality and an interior renewal, especially among those entrusted with the responsibility of pastoral leadership."
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The guidelines also urge dioceses to consider developing new structures and roles that can coordinate activity between parishes, especially those in close geographic proximity to each other.
Responsibility for the parish mission belongs to everyone, but each has a role to play.
The document emphasizes the co-responsibility of clergy, religious, and laity for the mission of the parish in the world. But the document also emphasizes that each person work for the Kingdom in the role to which he is called by baptism and vocation.
The guidelines emphasize that the parish pastor is entrusted with the full "care of souls" in the parish, a role unique to priests.
The document acknowledges a canonical provision that allows lay people to be entrusted with pastoral care in a parish because of a shortage of priests, but emphasizes that such a situation should be rare, and "a temporary and not a permanent measure," that can only be used when there is a true lack of priests.
"We are dealing here with an extraordinary form of entrusting pastoral care, due to the impossibility of appointing a Parish Priest or a Parish Administrator, which is not to be confused with the ordinary active cooperation of the lay faithful in assuming their responsibilities."